Morning Stripes: Bengals' Brown plan

Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers' young leading receiver, has been a real headache for teams to cover this season.

His shifty, elusive style of play can make him tough to tackle, and his leaping ability can make him come away with head-scratching receptions.

Throughout his career, he's been a bugaboo for the Cincinnati Bengals, who face him once again Sunday night. With the combination of a Bengals win or tie and a Miami Dolphins loss or tie, the Bengals can claim a playoff spot. With the combination of a Bengals win or tie and a Baltimore Ravens loss or tie on Monday night at Detroit, Cincinnati can officially claim another AFC North title.

So this is a big game for the Bengals.

For the first time this season, they enter a game without both of the starting cornerbacks with which they began the year. Leon Hall, who has been out since tearing his right Achilles in Week 7, will be joined on the sidelines this week by Terence Newman, who suffered an MCL sprain against the Colts on Sunday. Newman is expected to miss the next one to three weeks, and will be out this weekend, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Without Hall and Newman, the Bengals will start Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. It will be up to them -- mostly Jones -- to stop Brown.

The thing is, you can't really consider Jones a backup. He has been playing regularly most of the season, appearing often at nickel corner when the Bengals' secondary was healthier. Since Hall's injury, he has appeared on the boundary opposite Newman. Kirkpatrick, however, who will be mostly matched up with Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday, is getting his first career start.

When asked about both Steelers receivers Wednesday, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said they were one of the NFL's best tandems. They have combined for 12 touchdown receptions. Brown's 1,241 yards rank fourth among receivers this season.

More on the Bengals' plans for Antonio Brown kicks off this Thursday's Morning Stripes:

  • Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson considers stopping Brown the matchup of the game from Cincinnati's point of view.

  • In the Cincinnati Enquirer's latest "Walkthrough" blog, Paul Dehner Jr. takes a look at the importance of the No. 2 seed for the Bengals. If Cincinnati wins the next three games and the New England Patriots lose one of their next three, the Bengals get the No. 2 seed. With it, they'll be able to enjoy a measure of home-field advantage in the playoffs and a first-round bye.

  • After an abysmal defensive showing in last week's second half against the Colts, the Bengals are out to finish Sunday night's game against the Steelers. Tackling was an issue in the final minutes of the 42-28 win over Indianapolis, as the Colts scored a pair of late touchdowns. As Jones contends, the final score should have been closer to 42-14 instead. As FoxSportsOhio.com's Kevin Goheen writes, the defensive emphasis this week has been on finishing each play and finishing each game.

  • Also of note from Wednesday, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton earned the AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor for his play in Sunday's win. He threw three touchdowns passes and ran for another. As the Dayton Daily News' Jay Morrison points out, the award comes after his AFC Player of the Month honor back in October.